An “invaluable” memoir by a counselor who left the elite private-school world to help poor and working-class kids get into college (Washington Monthly).
Winner of the Studs and Ida Terkel Award
Joshua Steckel left an elite Manhattan school to serve as the first-ever college guidance counselor at a Brooklyn public high school—and has helped hundreds of disadvantaged kids gain acceptance. But getting in is only one part of the drama. This riveting work of narrative nonfiction follows the lives of ten of Josh’s students as they navigate the vast, obstacle-ridden landscape of college in America, where students for whom the stakes of education are highest find unequal access and inadequate support.
Among the students we meet are Mike, who writes his essays from a homeless shelter and is torn between his longing to get away to an idyllic campus and his fear of leaving his family in desperate circumstances; Santiago, a talented, motivated, and undocumented student, who battles bureaucracy and low expectations as he seeks a life outside the low-wage world of manual labor; and Ashley, who pursues her ambition to become a doctor with almost superhuman drive—but then forges a path that challenges received wisdom about the value of an elite liberal arts education.
At a time when the idea of “college for all” is hotly debated, this book uncovers, in heartrending detail, the ways the American education system fails in its promise as a ladder to opportunity—yet provides hope in its portrayal of the intelligence, resilience, and everyday heroics of young people whose potential is too often ignored.
“A profound examination of the obstacles faced by low-income students . . . and the kinds of reforms needed to make higher education and the upward mobility it promises more accessible.” —Booklist